WriteCon 2019

7 Dec

This time last week I was at WriteCon in Zurich. It’s an informal conference that happens every year in Zurich which allows writers to connect and provides a number of workshops throughout the day. I’ve been meaning to attend for the last two years but something has always cropped up so I haven’t been able to go. I was determined to go this year.

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And go I did. The first workshop that I attended was led by Jason Donald, who has published two novels and is now working in screen writing. The aim of the workshop was to talk about how to edit your work and freshen up pieces in your second draft. The ticket price was worth it for this workshop alone. I learnt a lot of new things and interesting ways to look at things I have written. I wanted to rush straight home and look at some of the things that I had written the day before. The advice was so practical and completely made sense to me. I also gained confidence from talking to Jason about the feeling that I have that my writing doesn’t ‘fit’ into a specific genre and about how I have started writing a book but have abandoned it to write a collection of short stories. He had exactly the same feelings and his first book started off as a collection of short stories which he eventually wrote together when he realised that there was an underlying theme to all of the stories. Perhaps I am on the right path…

After the lunch break I went to a workshop called “Pathways to Publishing”. I anticipated this would be a general discussion about how to decide between self-publishing and a traditional publishing route and what the pros and cons of both was. It turned out it was mainly a discussion about traditional publishing. It was interesting because I learnt how little an author earns per book that is sold and I also learnt that authors get paid every time a book of theirs is taken out of a library (which helped my guilty conscious when I borrow books rather than buying them).

I was surprised how many people had a negative impression of novels that are self-published. Many famous authors self-published their work, like Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain and Stephen King. So long as the book is well-written I don’t see the problem with it. I think self-published novels get a bad press when they haven’t been edited properly and people have self-published just to say that they have had a book published. I am still trying to decide what I think is best to do but I need to write the book first!

All in all, I’m glad I went. I met some more writers and learnt some things that I have already been able to use when I am writing. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before I have my book finished.

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Challenge #26 – update

3 Dec

It’s been a long time since I sat down to learn more origami but I finally got round to it this week. I don’t feel stressed out at the moment even though Christmas is fast approaching but I have found it very calming. I thought maybe I would sit down and do two designs and then leave it there for another time but I was enjoying it so much that I ended up sitting down for a good hour and a half. It’s all rock and roll at my place!

I have also discovered the amazing world of inflatable origami where you make all the folds, blow into the paper and make the final reveal. My favourite and best creation this time is my amazing Pikachu. I could happily make hundreds of them. In fairness I should have made him (is he a he?) on yellower paper but it’s obvious who it is meant to be.

Here are the other things I made. Most of them are animals but I’ve made other cool things too.

In the top picture I made a paper cup (that holds water), a samurai hat, a boat, a goldfish a windmill and the world’s tiniest plane. On the bottom picture I made a butterfly, lion, bird, snail, elephant and a crane (that’s a bit drunk and wouldn’t stand up for the photo).

In the last photo is a flower that ended up being a lot bigger than I thought it would be!

That is not to say that it has all been plain sailing. I tried a few more complicated designs and failed in spectacular fashion. Like the dinosaur that I got part way through and lost hope with and the umbrella that didn’t go to plan. I think I will come back to them in the next round because they do look cool – I just have to make sure that I can make them. I have a feeling there might be frustrating times ahead.

I now only have 15 more designs to learn to finish this challenge.

Farewell November

30 Nov

Let’s all say it together so that it’s out of the way: ‘How on earth is it the end of November already?’

This time in a few weeks we will all be stuffed with food, chocolates and booze wondering how on earth we are going to shed the weight so we can get back into our trousers to go back to work at the start of January. When we do go back to work in January, we will be in a new decade. This is a little too much for my brain to process at this point in time.

I feel like this month has been more relaxed than previous months but I’ve managed to do cool things this month that I have enjoyed.

Here is what I got up to in November:

  • After a long absence from the stage, I made my long awaited comeback. My drama group had a performance to share what we had learnt during the course. It was terrifyingly nerve-wrecking but a huge amount of fun and I was glad that some of my friends took time out of their busy lives to come and see it.
  • I finished my swimming course. I also learnt so much doing this and I sort of got used to the early mornings. Without having the motivation of the course, I actually haven’t been swimming once since finishing it but I have promised that I will go at least once a week between now and Christmas.
  • I finished my writing course and I am now working on a collection of short stories which I hope I will be able to publish in early spring next year.
  • I had a nice break in the sun in Tenerife with my mum. I was able to go running most mornings and drink a decent amount of local beer. We also went on a stargazing trip but, because it was cloudy, we didn’t see any stars. We just ended up cold and wanting to get back into the warm bus.
  • I joined the esteemed ranks of a non-nail biter after failing for year after year and, in doing so, completed Challenge #34 of my 40 Before 40 challenge.
  • And I visited my 34th European country when we visited a very wet and windy Monaco.

December will be full on as it always is. Work will be busy and my diary is looking full as it stands, unless I do my classic thing and make last minute cancellations!

I hope you had a great November and you are looking forward to celebrating the festive season.

A washout of a weekend

27 Nov

At the weekend I visited my 34th European country – Monaco. Okay, technically it’s a principality but it is recognised as a European state.

I would say that Monaco looked exactly like it did in the travel books but it didn’t. It just so happened that last weekend the French Riviera was battered by storms. Having grown up in North West England I’m used to rain but it’s been a long time since I experienced rain that heavy and relentless.

We were staying in Nice for the weekend but took the 20 minute train journey to Monaco. I can imagine that Monaco is a very beautiful place with its palm trees swaying gently in the breeze and the sun beating down but nowhere is beautiful when there are gale force winds and rain coming down sideways.

This isn’t what is looked like in the guide book!

When the weather is so bad, it’s hard to look round and enjoy anything. By this point my shoes and socks were soaked through and I had to buy a new pair. But I decided to wait until we got back to Nice where there are high street shops. 

There wasn’t just water streaming from the skies either. We had a drink and something to eat in the bistro of Cafe de Paris. My eyes began to water when I saw that we were being charged 9 Euros for half a lager! That made me appreciate how inexpensive Zurich prices are! 

The one good thing about the weather was that the Monte Carlo Casino looked very dramatic against the dark and stormy skies.

Although it wasn’t quite the experience I was hoping for, on reflection not many people would have seen Monaco in such dramatic weather. I often use the phrase “it doesn’t rain in a pub” as a fall back plan if the weather is wet. I was proved wrong this time as every building we went into had water pouring through the ceilings. And I mean everywhere – the airport, Cafe de Paris, our hotel and shopping centres.

We spent the rest of the weekend in Nice, enjoying a 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau, French food, shopping and generally attempting to stay dry.

I now only have 6 more countries to visit in Europe before I can strike this challenge off my list. I don’t have the next destination planned yet but I hope to be visiting some new places in 2020.

Challenge #34 – completed

22 Nov

I can’t quite believe that I have successfully completed this challenge. I have been trying to do this challenge for most of my life. After a long, hard slog and struggle, I have stopped biting my nails. Finally.

The problem I had with trying to stop biting my nails was that I didn’t just have one trigger. I would bite my nails if I was bored, anxious, stressed or excited so it wasn’t like I could avoid situations where I was all of the above to stop myself from doing it. It’s a bit like knowing that you will ruin your diet if you have biscuits in the cupboards at home so you stop buying them completely to avoid temptation. The problem I had was that even if I didn’t buy the biscuits, I still had cake, chocolate and donuts lurching in the background to derail me.

Over the years I’ve tried so many things to try to stop. When I was younger I bought that stuff that’s like clear nail polish but tastes awful if you put it anywhere near your mouth. The problem was as soon as you wash your hands the stuff came off so it turned me into a compulsive handwasher instead of an anti-nail biter. Also if you put it on and ate something like a sandwich before it had completely dried, it made the food taste revoluting.

I also tried wearing an elastic band on my wrist so that I could pluck it every time I had the compulsion to bite. I guess it’s similar to electric shock treatment. You get something unpleasant when you demonstrate undesirable behaviour so that you change your behaviour. In theory it sounds like an easy solution but I kept forgetting to put a elastic band on my wrist so I had no way of shocking myself.

I even had false nails about 10 years ago but I found it irritating to type on a computer or open drink cans and it ruined my natural nails underneath so I decided it wasn’t worth the money.

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Now I haven’t bitten my nails for last 5 months and I’m wearing nail polish for the first time in years. It wasn’t worth painting nails that were bitten down to the quick. I have finally kicked the habit because of the accumulation of shame. I started playing netball again this year and the first thing that you do before any tournament is show the umpires your nails – you shouldn’t be able to see the nail over the top of the finger if your palm is facing towards you in case you cause another player an injury. Having to present my hands to a strange was embarrassing when all my team mates had perfectly manicured nails.

Then five months ago I started a new job. I knew that I would be paraded around the office, like a dog that’s taken first prize at Crufts, and introduced to people. I didn’t want them to notice my fingernails and be hesitant to shake my hand. First impressions count and I didn’t want to be judged before I had even logged onto a computer.

I can’t believe it has taken me so long to kick this habit. Apart from it being unhygienic and unsightly, it’s also very painful when you accidentally rip off a bit of skin and it bleeds. It takes longer than you would think for it to heal because you are using your hands every day. I think knowing that I didn’t want to put myself through any unnecessary pain helped me to succeed.

I always think that biting your nails is something that most people do for a bit when they’re a kid and then they grow out of it. It might be later than planned but I have definitely grown out of it. Though I may have slightly replaced one habit with another. I have noticed that I tend twist my earrings more often that I used to especially when I am bored or thinking. But that’s at least more hygienic than the alternative.

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Note: these are not my nails. I don’t have the patience to use 5 different colours on one hand

 

The Name Game

20 Nov

Recently I found this on social media and I can honestly say I have never related to something more:

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I get at least five work emails a day that are addressed to someone with a name that is similar to mine but isn’t spelt quite the same. I fail to see how hard it is to copy my name from my email address and/or especially when I have orginally sent an email and signed it using the correct spelling of my name. After so many years, I am fairly sure that I know how to spell it, even if everyone else doesn’t care.

One of the hardest things about living in a non-English speaking country is that my name isn’t that common. I find myself in a constant Groundhog Day timewarp when I introduce myself to someone new. Conversations invariably go like this:

Me: Hi I’m Lyndsay

Them: Lesley?

Me: No – Lyndsay.

Them: Lizzy?

Me: No – Lyndsay.

Them: Chelsea?

Me (getting more irrate): No, you’re getting colder. It’s Lyndsay, like Lindsey Vonn (*famous American downhill skier who all the Swiss are in love with*).

Them: Oh. She’s my favourite skier. Can you ski as well as she can?

Me: Considering I’ve never been to the Olympics or been a World Champion, I’m going to have to go with a definite “no” on that one.

I’m not sure what I would do if it wasn’t for Lindsey Vonn. I’d probably end up changing my name just to make things easier.

I also have the misfortunate of having a very similar first and last name to a famous American actress, who I am sometimes confused with. Apparently, in the local paper my name was given as said actress in reference to a shooting competition that I took part in. I say “apparently” because I was too embarrassed to look at it.

Someone I met told me that she has a technique for remembering names: when you meet someone for the first time think of someone or something that has a similiar name. When she was about to tell me which actress she was thinking of when she shook my hand, I told her not to dare utter that name to me. Perhaps, slightly melodramatic but still…

I’m not saying that it isn’t nice to have a unusual name but people should at least make an attempt to spell it correctly. I can’t count the number of times an employer of mine has spelt my name wrong on official documents, such as contracts or bank cards. Think how embarrassing it is to have to contact HR and explain that you would love to accept their job offer but “Can you please spell my name right or I won’t sign the contract?”

I’ve also noticed that no one ever calls me by my nickname anymore; only people who knew me when I used to live in the UK. Okay, Lyndz isn’t much of a nickname but with Lyndsay being so hard to get right, I don’t have a chance of shortened form of my name.

All I’m saying is that it’s important to watch your p’s and q’s but if you’re writing to me make sure you watch your y’s and a’s as well.

The show must go on

8 Nov

I started going to a drama workshop once a week at the start of September, which culminated in a performance that we made for family and friends on Wednesday. I found an ad on Instagram and I decided to give it a go.

I have don’t anything like this before and I worked out that the last time I was in a play or performance was back in 1994. Yes, I am that old!

I’ve said in a previous blog post that a few weeks into the course I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying it or not. I couldn’t deny that it was interesting and I was learning things about drama and theatre that I hadn’t even considered before. I also learnt how dedicated you have to be to create something from nothing. But it wasn’t until we started putting things together that it all started to make sense.

We didn’t have much time to put together the performance and rehearse it properly. In fact we only finished it on the day of the performance about an hour beforehand the audience began to arrive. It would have been good to have more time to perfect things but I’m starting to learn that nothing will ever be perfect.

I was so nervous about perform. Hearing the audience stirring in their seats while we were anxiously pacing around back stage was unsettling. I had a monologue to perform among other lines I had to learn and I was terrified of forgetting them.

I’m glad to say we pulling it off without a hitch! The show lasted about 20 minutes but it felt like twenty seconds! I managed to get through the whole thing without forgetting my lines!

I was completely overwhelmed with some of the comments that people made to me after the show. I wasn’t expecting people to be so kind and positive. I’m so glad I decided to join the group. I’ve met great people and learnt a huge amount!

There is another course running in 2020 with the same theatre company and I am now trying to make up my mind if I want to continue with acting or do something else. It’s going to be a hard decision to make!